Book Review: The Mad Scientist's Guide To World Domination

SINGAPORE - There is no better time to be a villain than today, what with 50 shades of grey between right and wrong, good and evil.

However, this does not mean that evil villains do not want to rule the world anymore - it is just that they are no longer trying to do so in the form of cardboard characters such as Fu Manchu.

These days, almost all of them have back stories, some of which, such as that of spy extraordinaire-turned-evil IT genius Raoul Silva's in the 2012 James Bond outing Skyfall, make them worthy of sympathy, respect, and often, even make fans root for them over their more heroic but lacklustre counterparts.

The Mad Scientist's Guide To World Domination, an anthology of 22 short stories, is a natural product of the times.

Read about the histories and the motivations - in their own words, so to speak, for some - of the deliciously hilarious incarnations of Dr Frankenstein (a suburban husband), Igor (a Russian grad school student) and Lex Luthor (a namesake who wants to become the comic book villain for real).

Meet also the mad scientists' offspring, spouses and family members - such as Catherine Moreau, whose father creates humans from animals (clue - her dimunitive is Cat), and sisters in all but name Mary Jekyll and Diana Hyde - and how they suffer for their lineage.

When the supposedly good guys are running the world, and ruining it - think raiding depositors' savings to save a bank - some of these villains do not seem half as bad, especially on the rare occasion they do take over the world and manage to institute even quiet in the cinemas (by making phones explode if they are used in forbidden areas such as cinema halls).

Unfortunately, as with most anthologies, there are bound to be one or two tales which drop the ball with either an overlong treatise or an overactive imagination that is too out of this world.

But overall, this collection brings much fun food for thought to the table.

If you like this, read: A Science Fiction Omnibus edited by Brian Aldiss (2007, $37.60, Books Kinokuniya), which brings together 60 years of the best in the genre from authors such as Isaac Asimov.

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